Week in review (1/15): SU struggles against free throw defenses

wesThe Orange is playing with a target on its back.

For the entire season, SU has been in the top 10 of the rankings, and each game, the opposing team has stepped it up a notch with its free throw defense.

Syracuse, which shoots 67.7 percent collectively from the line, has been the victim of aggressive free throw defense all season. It is currently ranked 167th in the NCAA at the charity stripe.

“When they put me at the free throw line, no one is guarding me,” Syracuse forward Rick Jackson said. “It’s like taking a shot when you’re completely wide open. Hitting a shot like that is really, really difficult.”

Jackson is widely regarded as Syracuse’s best player, averaging career highs of 13.1 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He was also recently named to the 2010-11 Wooden Award Midseason Top 30 list.

As a result, he draws the most attention on free throw defense.

Jackson’s felt the pressure and is only shooting 50.8 percent from the free throw line. But he’s not the only one.

James Southerland (50 percent), C.J. Fair (56 percent), Baye Moussa Keita (56 percent) and Fab Melo (51 percent) have also felt the pressure of outstanding free-throw defense.

So, what makes good free throw defense?

“Sometimes, you have to raise both your hands while you’re standing on the block,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “Other times, if you stare at the free throw shooter the right way, you can force a miss. We’ve spent countless hours in the offseason just learning how to stare at people the right way.”

Although Syracuse defeated St. John’s 76-59, the Red Storm walked away with a huge moral victory, holding Syracuse to 62 percent from the free throw line.

“We’re still rebuilding,” Lavin said. “But to play free throw defense like that, it’s going to give our guys confidence going into the next game.”

The crowd plays a factor as well.

“One time, I heard someone yell ‘Noonan!’ as I took a free throw,” Southerland said. “I just started laughing. Then, I airballed it.”

Ironically, Mookie Jones, who has pined for playing time, has hit all four of his free throws this season.

“i can beat FT D but coach still won’t play me #transferringtoiona,” Jones posted on his Twitter account.

Editor’s note: In all seriousness, poor free-throw shooting will be the reason why Syracuse loses a few games this season.


In other (real) news from the week:

  • Former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni was hired by Connecticut this week. When the Syracuse football team plays at Connecticut next season it will mark the first time since 1952 that Syracuse will have faced off against a former head coach. Fifty-nine years ago, Syracuse lost at Michigan State, 48-7, with Clarence “Biggie” Munn leading the Spartans that year to an eventual national championship. Munn coached SU for one season in 1946, going 4-5, before departing for East Lansing as coach and later athletic director. Do you remember where you were when Coach P was still our Coach P?
  • After all the drama, the decision has been made, and it’s all over. Ishaq Williams committed to Notre Dame after months of speculation as to where he would end up.  I just think if I’m a big time recruit and I have a chance to be a legend at one school versus being just another name at a different school, I would take a shot at being a legend. Ah well. Of course, I’m disappointed, but I wish the kid nothing but the best with the Irish.
  • That being said, SU coach Doug Marrone wasted no time thinking about what could have been. Instead, he went out and got two verbal commitments from wide receiver Brandon Reddish and safety Shutang Mungwa. Both are 3-star recruits according to SyracuseFan.com. Mungwa’s an interesting story. He originally committed to Stanford, but when he found out he didn’t meet its academic standards, he went with what he called school “1A” and picked Syracuse.
  • The Orange crowd cheered for green on Saturday. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team attended the game and received a standing ovation from the Carrier Dome crowd. Many of them are set to head back to Afghanistan in the spring. Thank you for being heroes and we are praying for your safe return.
  • That’s all for this week, folks. See you at the same time, same place next week.

    Sincerely,

    Wesley Cheng
    Editor in Chief

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    Wes Cheng

    About Wes Cheng

    Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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